Recognizing that the community of trail users continues to grow at an exponential rate, ELCR joined an unprecedented consortium of trail user groups that came together to create the public awareness campaign “Trails are Common Ground (TaCG)” in early 2021. The campaign elevates the importance of respectful, inclusive, safe, and enjoyable experiences on trails. Both ELCR and Back Country Horsemen of America represent the equestrian community on the TaCG Steering Committee. For more information and how you can support the campaign go to https://trailsarecommonground.org/
Equestrians are inherently at more risk of injuries compared to other trail user groups because they are in a sitting position on live creatures which can be spooked or startled upon sudden and unexpected encounters with other trail users. A startled horse can be a risk to not only themselves and their riders but other trail users in their vicinity.
It is important to understand that as a prey animal a horse reacts differently to its environment than a human or dog. Horses also have anatomical differences which provide for their keen senses such as vision and hearing, resulting in them perceiving their environments very differently than other species. As prey animals, horses can naturally be afraid of unfamiliar people, objects, and sudden movement, and may react to a perceived threat with the natural “flight” response of a prey animal.
Understanding horses as prey animals and how their anatomical differences impact the way they perceive the world around them can be of great benefit in understanding the concept of the trail yield sign matrix and make the trail experience better and safer for all trail users!
Below are excellent examples of educational resources focusing on trail etiquette and safe passing plans when encountering equestrians on the trails. Each of the educational resources listed below are worth exploring, and while they complement each other, they also provide some unique information and tips. For example, Slow and Say Hello and Share the Trail are examples of good trail etiquette videos. Both Stop, Speak and Smile and Stop, Stand and Speak include videos on safely passing equestrians on trails. Stop, Stand Back and Speak (A Smile Helps Too) and Trails Safe Passing Plan: Stop, Speak and Stand Back both provide insight on the horse as a prey animal and how it sees and reacts to its environment which helps other trail users better understand horses and riders and the purpose of the yield sign hierarchy.
List of Trail Etiquette/Safe Passing Plan Resources
- “Stop, Speak and Smile” – Produced in cooperation by Central Oregon Trails Alliance (COTA), Sisters Trail Alliance (STA), Deschutes Trails Coalition (DTC), Oregon Trails Alliance (OTA), Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET), and Back Country Horsemen. https://www.bcha.org/blog/2021/08/15/proud-supporters-of-trails-are-common-ground-program/
- “Slow and Say Hello” – Produced by Marin County Trail Partners in CA https://safetrailsmarin.org/
- “Stop, Stand & Speak” – Produced by Back Country Horsemen Peninsula Chapter: https://www.pbchw.org/trail_safety_(the_3_s).php
- “Stop, Stand Back and Speak (A Smile Helps Too)” – Developed by Back Country Horsemen of Oregon’s Sourdough Chapter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF4HDAg6i9g
- The PowerPoint presentation resides on the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance website https://www.wildernessalliance.org/webinars
- “Trails Safe Passing Plan: Stop, Speak and Stand Back” – Created by Jenny Cook, Michigan Equestrian Trails Representative and Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council. https://elcr.org/trails-safe-passing-plan/
- “Share the Trail” – By Kingdom Trails in VT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaUDApD5_tE